Mayor Steve Rotheram extends support for creative, digital and tech firms after first phase supports more than 500 jobs

by Ian Hughes
14th July 2023

A successful business support scheme launched by Mayor Steve Rotheram for the Liverpool City Region’s digital, creative and tech firms is to be extended after delivering nearly 300 new jobs in its first phase.

The Combined Authority has approved £895,000 to fund a two-year extension to the Gather business support programme, which has created 290 jobs since it was established by the Mayor in January 2020.

The programme supported 178 digital, creative and tech (DCT) firms during the first phase with a further 217 non-DCT businesses receiving support to help withstand the Covid-19 pandemic.

As well as helping create jobs, the scheme safeguarded a further 213 roles.

Supported businesses have reported a £19.5m increase in turnover and 82% have said they will maintain or increase their revenue by their financial year ends. This is particularly impressive given the project was largely delivered during the pandemic.

The two-year extension is expected to support a further 119 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create a further 85 jobs.

Speaking about the further investment, Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“Our area is fortunate to be home to a thriving digital and creative sector that supports tens of thousands of local jobs and delivers an abundance of training opportunities. I want to put those businesses in the best possible position to succeed. Through our investment in Gather, we have helped hundreds of local employers to strengthen their workforce and create quality, secure, and well-paid jobs for local people. That looks like money wisely spent to me. 

“Given the success of the scheme so far, we’re extending its funding so that more businesses and local people can benefit. Despite a tough couple of years through the pandemic, we are ensuring that our economy is in the strongest possible position to take advantage of all the opportunities that will come our way in an increasingly digital world.” 

Councillor Mike Wharton, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business, said:

“Gather has been a really successful initiative that has supported hundreds of our small and medium sized businesses through a very difficult period, enabling them not just to survive but to prosper.  The proposed two-year extension to the programme offers the opportunity support even more businesses and create dozens more jobs.”  

Gather was created with £3.5m of funding to support the city region’s DCT sector and has been delivered by Form, who are a local business support agency.

It was set up to provide leadership and mentoring to support SMEs with growth potential to enable them to create jobs, while increasing the number of businesses to create a critical mass of activity.

In May 2020, support was extended non-DCT businesses to provide them with practical strategies and tools to boost their resilience during the pandemic.

Business support included on-line programmes, workshops and bespoke one-to-one support – with notable success stories including dynamic scale-ups with global reach such as Orcha, Milexa, and Springpod (see notes to editors for more information).

Gather has supported tech-led and tech-enabled businesses from a range of sectors, whilst its Sustain project is non-sector specific. The longer-term plan for Gather is to target the digital, creative and tech sectors while expanding its provision across other sectors in the city region.

Participants in Gather reported satisfaction levels of 9.3 out of 10 and 99% of non-DCT business leaders on the Sustain programme stated they would access support from the Combined Authority/Growth Platform again, based on their positive experience on Sustain.

The total cost of the two-year extension proposal is around £1.3m. Under this model, the Combined Authority will invest £895,000 with the remainder of the cost – £380,000 – covered through corporate sponsorship and contributions from participants.

The Gather extension aims to support the growth of up to 119 of the region’s ambitious digital, creative and tech SMEs powered by a combination of public and private funding, whilst driving towards a self-sustaining model that can run beyond 2025.

The extension will be made up of three core strands:

#1 Delivering industry-leading business support 

Continuing to deliver business support to the city region’s DCT sector, by equipping the ambitious leaders of smaller businesses to fuel their next stage of growth and enable the scaling businesses to continue growing sustainably.

#2 Testing alternative commercial models 

Building on the success of the client contribution model currently used on Beyond (the latest Gather programme where clients paid £2,500 towards their support), by conducting some experiments to identify innovative and sustainable models to future-proof Gather.

#3 Creating a robust roadmap to build legacy for Gather beyond 2025 

Collaborating with partners, stakeholders, and clients, to create a data-driven roadmap – informed by the funding experiments – which outlines practical next steps that drive towards a self-sustaining model for Gather creating legacy beyond 2025.

Case Studies

#1 Supporting micro businesses and freelancers to become ambitious, growing SMEs
Client name Late Night Agency
Business bio Late Night Agency are a music marketing agency that help artists with everything from album art to VR experiences. They work with recording artists, music producers, DJs, record labels, festivals and more, and their clients include Sony Music and Ministry of Sound.
Their Gather journey
  • One-to-one advice (Oct 2021)
  • Shift (Oct 2022)
The impact of Gather on their business
  • 2 jobs created
  • 21% increase in turnover
  • New approach to recruitment and leadership
  • Opened doors to networks and collaborations with other LCR leaders
What they’ve said about Gather “Without the support from Gather, we would have stagnated.”


  • Joyce Cowles, Founder


#2 Supporting big-potential businesses to lay solid foundations to scale and reach their full potential.
Client name Farm Urban
Business bio A vertical farming company based in the Baltic Triangle. They deliver products and programmes to bring about positive behavioural change and create conscious consumers.
Their Gather journey
  • Mettle (June 2020)
  • Shift (February 2021)
  • Hive (June 2021)
  • Beyond (January 2022)
The impact of Gather on their business
  • 7 jobs created
  • 325% increase in turnover
  • Established senior leadership team which has driven significant business growth
  • Re-structured the company to move away from grant funding and positioned them to raise equity investment
What they’ve said about Gather “Without the support from Gather, we would not be growing as we are.”


– Paul Myers, MD


#3 Equipping high-growth businesses with the tools and support to scale sustainably and ensure their future success.
Client name Orcha Health
Business bio The global leader in providing access to trusted digital health technologies, enabling safe digital adoption.
Their Gather journey
  • Sustain (June 2020)
  • Hive (June 2021)
  • Beyond (January 2022)
The impact of Gather on their business
  • 80 jobs created
  • 490% increase in turnover
  • Established essential rhythms for the SLT to drive growth across the business
  • Created strategic alignment for the senior leaders – equipping them with tools and insights to lead well as they scale


What they’ve said about Gather “Beyond has supported our Management Team to grow, learn and thrive.”


– Liz Ashall-Payne, MD


#4 Building a thriving community which prioritizes connection and collaboration
Client name MGISS, Kenyons & Sood
Collaboration details MGISS, Kenyons & Sood joined us on the same Shift cohort. Following their introduction through the Gather programme, MGISS have gone on to work with both Kenyons and Sood to enhance their brand strategy and online presence, resulting in new leads and business growth.
What they’ve said about Gather “Gather has really opened our eyes to the growing DCT ecosystem in the City Region and the potential of partnerships. We’re really excited to be part of it.”


– Mike Darracott, MD


ORCHA is a global leader in providing access to trusted digital health technologies, enabling safe digital adoption. They operate in twelve countries across the world and work with organisations including NHS England, NICE, CQC, MHRA and the Dutch Foundation for Mental Health.

The Milexa Group design and manufacture innovative wallpaper and flooring products for homes and businesses. Their mission is to enrich spaces by creating products that inspire and enable people to be thoughtful with design.

Springpod is a careers platform in which students can experience the world of work and university before they apply. They partner with universities and employers to create interactive, experiential learning programmes which empower the next generation and enable them to take their future into their own hands by giving them equal access to opportunity.

Image caption: Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, pictured with participants of the recent Gather round table event.or

For more on Liverpool City Region Combined Authority click HERE.